Louis-Michel Aury – A Real Pirate of the Caribbean

Louis-Michel Aury was born (approximately) in 1788 in the Parisian suburb of Montrouge. At an early age he entered Napoleon´s navy and was stationed on a French island in the West Indies. At 15 he left his warship in Guadaloupe and joined a group of French privateers.  By the time he was 22 he had saved enough prize money to purchase his own ship.

Aury never had any great affections for the Americans. In 1810 in New Orleans, American officials confiscated his ship and in 1811, while in Savannah, North Carolina, a mob torched his ship. He most certainly crossed paths with the Laffite brothers at that time as well and it would not be the last.

In 1812, the rebel government of Cartagena commissioned him to take command of a refitted privateer. He sailed from North Carolina in April of 1813 and with Cartagena as his headquarters he harassed Spanish shipping lanes with great success. In, a December of 1815, as Commodore in the navy of New Granada (Colombia), he ran the Spanish blockade of Cartagena. This was a devastating siege and the inhabitants were in extremely desperate conditions. He evacuated  hundreds of people at great personal expense and later joined Bolivar in Haiti.

While in Haiti he argued with Bolivar over payments for his services, supposedly for a sum of $25,000.  Additionally a bitter rivalry had developed between Aury and Luis Brion, the commander of Bolivar´s Venezuelan squadron. Aury refused to serve under Brion and instead accepted a marque from Mexican rebels . In association with a group of merchants, Aury backed General Xavier Mina, a young Spanish insurgent. The merchants , being more mercenary than visionary, wished to gain access to the Mexican silver mines as well as wrest control of Florida from Spain.

In 1816 Aury accepted the position of Resident Commissioner of Galveston Island, Texas from the fledgling Republic of Mexico and he established a base there from which he could direct his profitable privateering operations. In late 1816, General Mina arrived to organize an overland invasion of Mexico. Aury disagreed and instead in April of 1817 they left Galveston. They attacked the port of Tampico and took it without a fight. Mina then marched inland only to be caputred and executed by the Spanish in October of 1817. When Aury returned to Galveston Island he discovered that Jean Laffite and his Baratarians had moved in and taken control of the island.

From Galveston, Aury headed to Fernandina, Amelia Island where Gregor McGregor had established the Republic of Florida. Gregor McGregor was a Scottish adventurer, the so-called  styled “Brigadier-General of the United Provinces of the New Granada and Venezuela and General-in-Chief of the armies of the two Floridas”. This was not the first time Aury had been associated with McGregor. He had been trapped in the siege of Cartagena and had helped organize the evacuation that Aury led on Dec. 5, 1815.

Two of McGregor’s lieutenants turned over the island to Aury as a representative of the Mexican insurgents. The privateer, much to the annoyance of the French, the and the Americans, began a very profitable trade within the state of Georgia running slaves and captured merchandise. In December of 1817, the Americans shut down Aury´s activities and he departed a few months later.

Next stop for Aury, was Providencia or Old Providence Island. He captured the island  with 400 men and 14 ships in July of 1818 and set up the islands as his new base of operations. Aury continued to make attempts to reconcile with Simon Bolivar and even offered to have the islands integrated into Gran Colombia. Aury still refused to serve under Luis Brion so he accepted letters of patents from the governments of Buenos Aires and Chile.

In May of 1819 he mounted a successful raid on Izabal, Guatamela. As Central America was still under the sway of Spain, Aury began plotting with the envoy of Buenos Aires and Chile to free this area from the control of Spain. In April of 1820 Aury organized attacks on the Spanish fortresses at Trujillo and Omoa, Honduras but failed. Nonetheless he continued privateering  from his base in Providence.

In August of 1821, Aury passed away at the young age of 33, supposedly after falling off a horse. Although he never resolved his differences with Bolivar, Louis-Michel Aury made a great contribution, during his very short life, to the independence movement of Colombia.